Exclusive Interview: Professor Green – “Put good energy into good people.”
Professor Green talks about 'M.O.T.H' EP, his experience creating documentaries and what the future holds for him...
It has been five years since Professor Green’s last project, Growing Up In Public, but in the time in-between he has been immersing himself in documentaries, from exploring the alarming rate at which men in the UK are committing suicide in Suicide and Me to controversially discussing drug legislation in Is It Time to Legalise Weed?
It seemed as if creating documentaries was Professor Green’s true calling, as it was not only like therapy for him, but also helped a lot of individuals from the awareness it brought to issues such as suicide, homelessness and poverty in general. But off recent the call of his first love – music – has been strong and he was able to get back to his craft, gifting us with his latest EP, M.O.T.H (Matters of the Heart), which explores the ups and downs Professor Green has been through over the past few years, including: making bad decisions in his personal life, coming out of dark times and even managing to overcome a fractured neck caused by a seizure, which occurred during the recording of this tape.
So just before his epic EP launch party, RWD caught up with Professor Green to talk about the concept behind M.O.T.H, his experience creating documentaries and what the future holds for Pro Green.
What is the concept behind the M.O.T.H EP, what significance does the Insect have to you in your life now?
The acronym stands for ‘Matters of the Heart’ and it just came from a lyric in the title song. I rap “nothing really matters except matters of the heart” and then I was like “okay”, that’s what I’m going to call the project. That song’s mad because we done a session in the morning and Will Bloomfield who I’ve been writing a lot of music with, he was on his way out and a friend of mine, Eddie Jenkins, who’s the producer of the track – he used to play keys for The Streets, played keys for Lily Allen and he’s my housemate now – we have an upright piano in our house and he just started playing these chords and I was like play them again, then I freestyled the chorus for ‘Matters of the Heart’, which I just saved as a voice note before going studio to create the full track. Once I finished putting together the song, I realised that M.O.T.H is acronym for ‘Matters of the Heart’ and I’ve always liked moths. I especially like how they are attracted to the light and the reason they are is because they use the moon to fly straight so that they know where they are going. I also like that they are nocturnal creatures, which is definitely something that I’ve been in the past (says laughing).
So the acronym stands for Matters Of The Heart, what does that mean to you?
I think we all spend far too long using our heads instead of our hearts. I don’t like the phrase, “I think I love you”, how can you think something you’re supposed to feel? Really and truly our heads get in the way of most things. How many times in life have you gone against your gut and then regretted it, it’s because your heads going, “nah it can’t be that or yeah let me go for it”. As important as the brain is, I think it can get in the way of us listening to our gut intuition. In eastern medicine they talk about the gut being the second brain and when you’re born you can feel before you think; any time you get anxious it’s in your belly; any time you get stressed it’s in your belly: that’s where you feel things first. We all let our heads get in the way of making decisions too often.
I also believe that fear is the most restrictive thing in the world. all of these social boundaries that we set ourselves. I was offered the chance to go to St Paul’s Academy when I was leaving primary school, and I just went “I don’t want to go there, its not for me”. That’s a social boundary by construct, because I feel that they’re posh and I’m scared of them. I would never have said I was scared of them at the time, but ultimately I wasn’t actually scared of them, but of a perception of the types of people I thought went there. I thought I would be out of place, but actually my place in the world is where ever I happen to be. But it’s taken me till now, age 35, where I can say to myself that I can sit at anyone’s table.
In terms of the project, would you say an inspiration for it was a past relationship in particular?
Nah, ‘Matters of the Heart’ isn’t really about anyone in particular, I suppose it’s about everyone in a sense because I take from every relationship I’ve had whether its a partnership or a romantic relationship. I’m inquisitive and I like to listen more than I like to speak to learn. You can’t experience everything in life and I meet people that have experienced things that I’ll probably never go onto go through, but I can still take from their perspective and appreciate any useful advice they have for me. But it’s weird, the EP ebbs and flow like an album does; it touches on a variety of vibes and I just feel like this collection of songs represent less where I have been and more where I am.
In the past, especially when things started going well, because so much f**kery had happened in my life growing up, I was so nervous that I was going to mess everything up. I had this idea that if I became successful that everything would just sort itself out, but it don’t change your past or the messed up things I went through when I was younger. Money doesn’t bring you that happiness, but then you can complain because everyone else still thinks that if they get what you’ve got then their life will be sorted, which causes you to internalise all of these negative thoughts. I didn’t feel as present as I should have, because I was so worried about what might be around the corner. I had a conversation with someone recently and they summarised it in a brilliant way, they said “if you preempt misery, even if something does end up going wrong, instead of just living with it when it happens, you’re living it day in day out”. Thats how I was living life; I was anxious, I was worried and I wasn’t present. I was scared to say the words I’m happy, because I was worried about what might go wrong and I didn’t realise how I grew up played into all of that.
Then all of a sudden, fairly recently – I’d say in the last couple years – I got to a place where I just accepted that sh*t happens, its life, sh*t does inevitably happen, so I can either wait worrying and it’ll happen or I can not worry and it either will or won’t, but if I’m not worrying I’m actually here. I’m present.
I like the track ‘Bad Decisions’. what lessons have you learned over the years to minimise making detrimental choices?
You see that tattoo (shows me a tattoo on his hand that says ‘go to be’), go to bed! that’s a big one bro. People always have a different time, but everyone always has this same thing that nothing good happens after 2am; nothing good happens after 3am; nothing good happens after 4am and it’s the truth. I’ve had some beautiful sunrises, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great nights, but its like 1 in 18. And to have them 17 bad/indifferent nights for that one night is a waste of time and energy. If I go to bed, I don’t care if I’m hungover and I’ve had three hours of sleep, I get up, get out of bed and the hangover doesn’t touch me, life is just better.
Also putting too much time and energy into people that don’t reciprocate. Sometimes people have got bad energy and you can’t fix everyone, it’s not your job to. You can’t take responsibility for a next man’s actions either. If you prompt or provoke someone, then that’s different, but if not then you’re not responsible for how they choose to behave. Put good energy into good people. Put good energy out in general and watch how much comes back.
The production on the song ‘Boring’ is an absolute madness, who made the beat?
That’s Eddie Jenkins again, I just came up with the top line, gave it to Eddie and he worked his magic from there. The song is also me making a joke out of starting the year with the seizure. Same way as always, I just have to make a joke out of everything.
I also saw that you fractured your neck with the seizure, was this before the creating of this project or during the process?
In my head I pretty much had the EP done. Then I had the seizure; I was in hospital for three days and then I checked myself out because I don’t like hospitals, went home, had two days of feeling sorry for myself and then gave myself an encouraging slap on the face. From there I went studio and came up with ‘Boring’ and ‘Bad Decisions’, so it was a different EP before that. But I just went straight back into it. It hurt having to cancel a sold out tour, it was my first headline tour in four years as well. We had this tour coming up in November already in the diary, but I couldn’t say anything about it then, so it was a painful pill to swallow. But I thought to myself if I’m going to have this time out, then I’m going to do something constructive with it. Right now, I feel stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. Touch wood I’ve not been ill since the flu that I had when the seizure happened, but I was run down then and I was working myself into the ground. I didn’t know how sick I was and kept pushing and pushing until I had the seizure. It was a warning. I was lucky because that could have been different, I mean I fractured my neck, but it could have been much worse.
Would you say making music is therapeutic for you?
100%, which was what it was in the first place. When I was 18 I started freestyling, then I started writing down lyrics, which helped me find a form of expression and as soon as I did that, I became less angry, because I had a way to get what was inside out and an outlet for all the things I thought or felt. All the rappers that I grew up listening to were MCs who put themselves in their songs; what they saw; what they felt; what they thought. So when I started writing, that’s exactly what I went to. There’s a form of therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I don’t do it, but a cornerstone of it is journaling and that is basically what I’ve been doing since I started writing lyrics, which is just writing down what you think or feel at any given time. It’s sick, because it gives you perspective. I can look back at things I said in my first album and think, “wow, that’s where my head was at”.
Your documentary ‘Suicide and Me’ was a pivotal point in your career, what’s been the after effect of it almost five years on?
It’s mad, because I didn’t know what I was walking into, at all. I was scared because I didn’t want people to see me cry. It’s fine for me to talk about it in my music, but I didn’t want people to see it and think of me as weak or change their opinion of me. But all the reasons I was scared of doing it, are the reasons that men don’t talk, which contributes to why my Dad killed himself. The same reason why if you’re 20-49, the most likely thing to kill you if you’re a man is yourself, which is an absolutely mad statistic. The person you see in the mirror when you brush your teeth, it’s crazy. All the ways that people die that we’re desensitised to, because we hear cancer everywhere; we hear knife this; we hear gun that and we grow up around certain things, which makes us more numb to them. But then you hear the word suicide and you’re like “woah, they killed themselves”. But as I said, that’s the thing that is most likely to kill men if they are 20-49. So I was just like, you know what these are all the reasons why people don’t talk and if I don’t put this documentary out, then I’m a p**syhole. I’m not weak if people see me cry, I’m weak if I don’t do this documentary. So I did it and it started a conversation that no-one was having, which I never expected and I’m super grateful for.
Since then, you’ve done a multitude of documentaries – what would you say is the social thread that connects them all together?
Poverty. it’s undeniable. I can’t get my head around someone like Boris Johnson, who knows nothing about anything somehow ends up being our Prime minister and he says he’s going to create 10,000 more spaces in prisons and says he’s going to put 20,000 more police of the roads to help fill those prisons and no-one says anything. But when you really look at it, there are so many people in prison for non-violent crimes that have longer sentences that pedophiles do and for what, selling weed. There’s another documentary I did about drug legislation, and I talk about how many people die of drugs death per year that are avoidable, but i’ts such a taboo in this country and we’re not liberal, we don’t have the conversation. And I say something like I think we should decriminalise all drugs and the headline in The Mirrror is “Professor Green says he wants to legalise heroin”. Legalise and decriminalise, two completely different things. But there is a science to deprivation, where people are made to grow up in under-resourced enivornments and essentially excluded from opportunities.
I also read that you’re a patron of the suicide prevention charity CALM, how did you get involved with that?
That was after the documentary. What happened with the documentary was that the fee wasn’t huge at all and I didn’t feel right being paid to do it, so I gave that money to CALM. Then from there, we started to talk to them and they asked me if I wanted to come on board as a patron and I was like 100%. It’s something that is close to my heart and the documentary got a great response. But the saddest thing about the documentary is that the response was huge, which was because so many people are affected by mental health issues. So it was bitter sweet, as it made me realise just how serious this issue is.
Looking back on your life now, would say you’re lucky or blessed?
I’ve been lucky man. I wouldn’t be the person sitting before you if I hadn’t been through all the mess I had to deal with on my journey as well as all the good. I met someone recently and we were having a grown conversation, talking about how its funny when you meet a person it’s all cool initially, but then when feelings get involved they want to judge you on your past. But all the bad that you’ve been through and done, has made you into the same person that all the good you’ve been through and done has. In life, you have to take the rough with the smooth. At the end of my single ‘Read All About It’, I say “I ain’t censoring myself for nobody, I’m the only thing I can be, all that is good, all that is bad, all that is me” and that still holds true till this day for me.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want Professor Green to be remembered for?
Doing it. I don’t know what “It” is particularly, but just doing it. I want to articulate that better, but I don’t think there is any other way to. Because I don’t know what Im going to end up doing. I never thought I’d end up doing documentaries or giving talks at KPMG. But more than ever, I just want to immerse myself in whatever I’m doing and do it to my full capacity, for as long as it’s good for me.
Interview by Denzil Bell
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